The Open Championship returns to Royal Troon this week after a 12-year hiatus. Todd Hamilton was victorious back in 2004, the most recent of the eight occasions the event has been held at the course.
Todd who?! In case you’ve forgotten, Hamilton produced one of the sport’s all-time upsets when he bested Ernie Els in a four-hole play-off to win that year. I remember it all too well as I had fifty quid on Els pre-tournament at (if I recall correctly) 10/1.
I’m just about over that loss now, more than a decade on. And, thankfully, the extent of my betting decision-making goes a bit further than “I really like Ernie” as was the case back then.
Be sure to shop around
In golf betting, it’s really useful to shop around as prices can vary significantly between bookmakers. Perhaps just as important are the each-way terms offered and these differ between sites too.
There’s no excuse for not taking the best deal on offer, so before you make your selections be sure to browse Oddschecker for the latest prices.
Note the each-way terms along the bottom. PaddyPower are paying out eight places (at 1/5) and a few sites are paying top seven (at 1/4), which is great.
One of the great Links courses in Scotland, Royal Troon was founded in 1878 with its ‘Old Course’ first hosting The Open in 1923.
It’s home to both the longest and shortest holes in Open Championship golf. The monster 601-yard hole known as ‘Turnberry’ is the par-five sixth hole, closely followed two holes later by the par three 123-yard ‘Postage Stamp’.
It’s debatable which hole is the more difficult, to be honest. Here’s a clip of Rory in a practice round at the ‘Postage Stamp’ recently.
Tricky! I think it’s safe to say Rory will be doing his best to avoid that bunker this week.
It sort of goes without saying in golf but the game is much easier when you hit fairways and greens. In this notoriously tough course that is particularly important, and that helps us build a profile of the type of player we’re looking to bet on.
Key Stats for Royal Troon
- Strokes gained tee-to-green
- Strokes gained putting
- Driving accuracy
Let’s take a look at these key stats in the past 12 weeks on tour (credit to FNTSY Sports Network).
The highest ranked golfer for ‘strokes gained tee-to-green’ is, unsurprisingly, Dustin Johnson, with Rory McIlroy in second. Other notable players include Matt Kuchar in fifth, Adam Scott in sixth, and Branden Grace in 10th place.
Rafael Cabrera Bello leads the table in ‘driving accuracy’ for the past 12 weeks, with Henrik Stenson in second. Matt Kuchar also finds himself in the top ten on another key stat in seventh place.
Don’t forget the weather!
Another huge factor at Troon is the seemingly ever-present wind that can wreak havoc on the tournament. Tiger Woods once said this tournament 100% comes down to the weather.
So who plays better in windy conditions? Generally speaking, the higher hitters perform better against the field.
Statistically speaking, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth both back that statement up with good performances in the wind. Keep an eye on that forecast for the next few days, poor conditions change everything.
Under current form it’s hard to see a winner outside of the world’s top golfers, unless of course, the weather decides to play its part.
If the wind whips up, then we’ll see greater variance which will increase the chance of the winner coming from the field over one of the big boys.
Form-wise, it’s difficult to look beyond Dustin Johnson who’s in the form of his life coming to Scotland. He’s won back-to-back events, including the all important first major win at The US Open, and is looking to go three-in-row here.
So what about the two other members of ‘the big four’? Rory Mcilroy and Jordan Spieth. It is a big four now isn’t it? Yeah, I think so.
Rory and Jordan are actually in solid form themselves, although Rory is coming off the back of a missed cut at The US Open. There is certainly no obvious reason to completely rule those two out here. They are both more than capable.
It feels like Rory is close to getting back to his best, and Spieth looks to have put his recent driving issues behind him with a good performance at Bridgestone.
When making our selections, however, at some point we simply have to start ruling out some big players. We can’t back everyone.
If we’re going by form, logic suggests that for a similar price (DJ & Day 10/1, Rory 11/1 and Spieth 12/1) it makes more sense to favour one of DJ or Day who are two elite golfers in the form of their lives.
The Open betting picks
For major week I typically back two longer-priced guys each way, and one golfer for the win. This week will be no different, here are my selections for 2016 The Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Branden Grace: Each way – 30/1 with Bet365 (bet now)
Matt Kuchar: Each way – 66/1 with PaddyPower (bet now)
Dustin Johnson: To win – 10/1 with Betfred (bet now)
Branden Grace: Each way
I’m a big fan of Grace and believe he’s one breakthrough away from joining the top top golfers in the world today.
He’s an excellent Links golfer, winning the Alfred Dunhill Links and the Fancourt Links back in South Africa. He also finished fourth behind Spieth at Chambers Bay which is a Links style course.
Since the start of 2015 in six majors, Grace has missed the cut twice (both at The Masters which arguably doesn’t suit his game) but apart from that he’s finished 3rd at Whistling Straits, 4th at Chambers Bay, 5th at Oakmont, and 20th last year at St Andrews.
When seeking out value bets for majors, I’m always looking for guys with a good all-round game with no obvious weaknesses. They might not have the explosiveness of a Rory or a DJ, but they can make up for that in other areas given the right course and the right conditions.
I’ve favoured Louis Oosthiuzen and Danny Willett in past majors for this exact reason. They are all rounders, and that includes a solid mental game.
The pressure in these tournaments is so intense, especially if you’re in contention on Sunday. If you’re not confident in one particular aspect of your game, that weakness can be exposed when under more pressure.
Grace fits into this category for me. At 30/1 we have a very nice each-way bet here, with a realistic chance of binking the win too.
Matt Kuchar: Each way
66/1 is a huge price.
Kuch is in fantastic form, he was third last time out at Bridgestone, was 4th at Memorial, tied for sixth at Dean & Deluca, third at Byron Nelson, and third at The Players Championships.
All those results came in the last two months. Need any more reasons to back him each way at 66s?
He fits this course well. As we’ve already seen he’s 10th for strokes gained tee-to-green in the last 12 weeks, and seventh in driving accuracy. Both massively important stats at Troon.
If his putter is hot this week, he’ll make a mockery of that price.
The one black mark on his CV is question marks over his ability to bring home the win under pressure, but we can’t expect everything for 66/1, can we?
Dustin Johnson: To win
It was a very close call between Dustin Johnson and Jason Day here. DJ has the better form (just), but Day probably fairs better if conditions are poor, and having checked the forecast that looks possible.
I’ve never backed DJ in a major as I had big doubts on whether he could make it over the finishing line. It was all too easy to cut him from my list of realistic contenders because of that.
He followed his first major win with another victory at Bridgestone, and for me there’s no doubt he’s the form golfer in the world right now.
He’s number one in strokes gained tee-to-green, his driving accuracy is fantastic at the moment and his putter is on point too. There’s just too much going in his favour this week, so I’ll be reluctantly fading Jason Day on this one.
Jason Day to win – 25/1 at Betfair (new customers)
Rory McIlroy to win – 25/1 at Betfair (new customers)
Jordan Spieth to win – 25/1 at Betfair (new customers)
Dustin Johnson to win – 25/1 at Betfair (new customers)